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Becoming a Writer Paperback – March 1, 1981
The 30 Best Self Help Books
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Even in 1934, Dorothea Brande knew that most writers didn't need another book on "technique" -- and this, before so many more would be published. No, she realized, as John Gardner notes in his foreword, "the root problems of the writer are personality problems," and thus her wise book is designed to simply help you get over yourself and start writing, with techniques ranging from a simple declaration to write every day at a fixed time -- no matter what -- to exercises that come close to inventing the TM and self-actualization movements that would follow a few decades later.
About the Author
ROBERT W. HARRIS has been a freelance writer and designer since 1990. He has written twelve books, including DOS, WordPerfect & Lotus Office Companion and When Good People Write Bad Sentences. His books have been main selections in the Small Computer Book Club and the Book-of-the-Month Club.
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Top Customer Reviews
Brande is trying to reach the writer who is not yet sure he/she is a writer. The shy, insecure artist who believes that somehow there is a magic to writing, a magic that other, successful writers have and which has somehow eluded him. And who desperately longs to find a key to that magic.
This book provides that key.
Brande goes on to talk about the artistic temperament, and th eneed to cultivate spontaneity, and innocence of eye, as well as the ability to respond freshly and quickly to new scenes, and to old scenes as though they were new, and to see "traits and characteristics as though each were new-minted from the hand of God".
Stories, Brande says, are formed in the unconscious mind, which must flow freely and richly, bringing at demand all the" treasures of memory, all the emotions, scenes, incidents, intimations of character and relationship" which is stored away beyond our awareness.
This book is about tapping that rich store in the unconscious mind.
These days there are all kinds of workshops and books about creativity, tapping the unconscious, using meditation to reach the inner artist, and so on. In fact, any writer who has dabbled a little bit in the so-called "spiritual arts" would be capable of putting together a how-to treatise on writing, painting, dancing, or any other form of creativity, a how-to-do book on writing just by filling it with Buddhist sound-bites.
The thing about Brande is that she said it first, and said it best. This book is pioneer work; in 1934 George Harrison had not yet gone to India to set off the boom in meditation, and we were not yet informed on the validity of "right-brained" thinking.
She then goes on to talk about the interplay between the unconscious and the conscious mind, for the latter does have a role to play in he process or writing.
The unconscious, says Brande, is shy, elusive, and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind, on the other hand, is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training. What wonderful, inspiring words! What courage they installed in me, when I first read them!
The rest of the book tells us how, exactly, to tap the wealth of the unconscious mind. She provides exercises and practical examples of what can be done to get the those buried stories richly flowing. She plants that seed of knowledge in your soul which will tell you "This is it", and will catapult you - as if by magic! - out of the slough of despond and into the actual work of a writer.
I read this book in 1981, at a time when I never dared dream of writing a complete novel. Immediately after reading it I began the exercises. They helped. Then I began to write my first novel. What more can I say, except that Brande's advice works. I now have two published novels and a third one under contract, what better recommendation can I give?
The language Miss Brande uses is reflective of her time - she uses phrases I would never think to use... and I delighted in each turn of the letter, each loving bit of guidance and suggestion.
"Becoming a Writer" reminded me of "So You Want to Write" by Brenda Ueland, though this book feels more structured to me and less conversational. Her ideas are echoed in the modern works of writers such as Julia Cameron.
She offers many exercises and manners of stretching yourself as a writer, offered to make your uniqueness more pronounced and aid in your quest to do exactly what the title says, become a writer.
Her concluding chapter: "In conclusion: Some Prosaic Pointers" is flawless and timeless, even as it speaks of the necessity for two typewriters (substitute computers).
I am so glad I finally read this book, one I had heard referred to for such a long time. It is truly a classic to be loved, to be returned to, and to be treasured for all times.
I found the chapters on reading as a writer most helpful as I do so much reading and therefore wish to learn as much as I can while doing so. And I was most amazed at the insight that Ms. Brande had with respect to how the mind works. She seems to be well ahead of her times, and I'm not so sure that many would find fault with her take on how genius or "empty mind" is to be encouraged and enhanced.
In short, this book is well worth the read and should be on any aspiring writer's shelf. I give it a three out of five rating (and then only because there are more current volumes that provide this information). I am pleased to have spent the time reading this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
7/8 ths of book belabors the negative.